Filtering by Tag: Risk Communication

Food Safety Talk 136: Unknown Puppy Exposure

Added on by Don Schaffner.

This show opens with Ben talking about his experiences at a recent "invitation only" meeting with Sonny Perdue (and 100 of his closest friends) and how he (Ben) almost got arrested for doing research. Don counters with his appearance on the Do By Friday podcast to talk about Sous Vide-ing shoes and bras, and more. The guys respond to listener feedback on unclear coffee recall notices, and donating expired foods. The discussion turns to junk science, and puppy-borne disease before wrapping on naming beers and pubs by neural network.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Food Safety Talk 25: Two Little Super Heroes, Mangoes and Cantaloupes

Added on by Don Schaffner.

The guys started the show with the usual technobabble. Ben explained the history of barfblog and the reason for the recent server switch. He also mentioned the attack on GoDaddy by Anonymous – possibly because of the elephant shooting and their support of SOPA – which affected 1.5 million websites, including barfblog and Dani’s new mommy-blog. The guys counseled listeners not to piss off the Anonymous or WikiLeaks people.

Don then talked about his recent radio appearance to talk about the Stanford meta-analysis on the safety of organic and conventional foods. Don complained how a Google search on the topic resulted in a large number of media publications, but except for the New York Times article, none provided information to help track down the original publication. Eventually he found the original article, and in his quest to find work on microbial food safety of organic food he then tracked down a couple of papers by Francisco Diez-Gonzalez. But Don’s key message during the radio interview was that people shouldn’t worry about the safety of conventional versus organic, but instead focus on eating fruits and vegetables, because they are healthy.

Ben then talked about the ambiguity in the Stanford press release, such as “there isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health.” Maybe that’s why some people took this paper as evidence that organic foods were better. Nevertheless, Ben liked the conclusion that “this is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.” Don thought that for the majority of people it was more beneficial to buy more fruit and vegetables than to buy the expensive ones.

Ben still hasn’t started his homework – watching The Wire. But at least he’s done The Wire personality test – just to find out he’s “Snot Boogie.”

Ben then recalled the discussion from last podcast and how washing cantaloupe increased the probability of pathogen spread. Michelle Danyluk commented to the guys that she believe it was retail stores who required washing. Ben wondered whether the buyers knew about the risk of washing. Don strongly doubted it as people probably thought that not washing is riskier, because they don’t consider cross-contamination and because they use sanitizer. That said, Don did wonder whether producers really understood and had verified the efficacy of their systems. Ben recalled that as part of the T-GAP program in Florida the field packing of tomatoes has been outlawed, and he was concerned that this would likely result in producers to choose to wash tomatoes.

Mike Batz’ tweeted about CDC having made MMWR available online for 1952-1982. Don fondly recalled the only enjoyable bit of his first undergraduate microbiology class where the professor would read them an “MMWR bedtime story.” The guys reminisced about the stories in MMWR 1(1) and how far technology had come – unlike then we can now often find the cause of an outbreak.

Don then followed up a comment on norovirus on cruise ships (last episode) that Andreas had left them in the show notes. Craig Hedburg had previously shared with Don that while people shed norovirus for a long time they only spread it when they have active diarrhea. Don also noted that infection via hands touching infected objects, such as door knobs and railings, was less likely than infection via direct ingestion (as a result of cross contamination at the self serving bar).

Ben then recalled a conversation with Richard Sprenger, who runs the training company Highfield, in Dubai last year. In particular, Richard had said that full implementation of HACCP at retail would require elimination of outside contamination sources as much as possible, but doing so would reduce sales. Hence, any retailer wanting to remain in business had to weigh up the risk and benefits of eliminating all potential contamination sources. This then prompted a short discussion about various risk-benefit tradeoffs that retailers would have to consider all the time – though Don prefers those who err on the side of caution.

The discussion then turned to the large foodborne illness outbreak associated with Mexican mangoes, which has now resulted in various product recalls. Don talked about a hypothetically bitchy email from an unnamed colleague, which sparked a discussion about outbreaks and recalls and how they do and don’t occur together. Don recalled this USDA report about a green onion related hepatitis A outbreak and the associated economic impacts on Mexican producers with various degrees of GAP implementations. In particular, it showed that those doing the right things were less impacted, if at all. Ben then stressed the need for all producers to demonstrate how they were doing the right things, which was, at least partially, in response to a Huffington Post article on the requirements placed on organic producers.

The conversation then turned to the difficulty of good risk communication in the face of an outbreak. In particular, Don recalled his recent ‘deer in the headlights’ moment when he was asked how he would advise Chamberlain Farms to communicate with the associated press after the link between patients and isolates found on Chamberlain Farm fields had been confirmed. Luckily, Doug Powell and Ben managed to save Don by providing some well thought out words.

Ben finished off with some information about a workshop he delivered to producers on how to recover from a recall or outbreak. In particular, he recalled a retail representative comment on how they make decisions about whether they continue to buying from a supplier after an outbreak – they base it on how the supplier reacts and communicates and whether they know what they are doing.

In the after dark the guys reminisced about Alf and Don also found a Frank Zappa on the toilet picture online, in memory of Doug writing his words of wisdom in the dunny.

Food Safety Talk 25: Two Little Super Heroes, Mangoes And Cantaloupes

Food Safety Talk 20: I’m not worried about eating my own poop!

Added on by Don Schaffner.

The guys’ problems with Skype continue, though it’s unclear whether it’s because of Skype not ringing the bell or due to their own fault (e.g. when Don mutes himself).

Ben’s trip to Rochester for the filming of a show of Second Opinion was cool as Ben was able to talk to his heart’s content rather having to limit him to small sound bites. The show’s theme was the E. coli O157 outbreak in 2006 involving spinach and it will screen in Rochester probably sometimes this summer and nationally in fall. Apparently the show stems from a journal club, run by University of Rochester Medical Centre, which aimed at providing a scientific discussion of some of the fictitious causes presented on TV shows, such as ER and House. Ben also managed some significant carb loading thanks to the coffee and donuts he got from Tim Horton’s, while spotting Sarah Palin from his hotel room. Or was that Russia? Or Canada?

Ben’s carb loading is continuing thanks to the delicious cookies that Dani had made thanks to a recipe she found on Pinterest. Though Don’s feeling left out, because he doesn’t know anything about this ‘Tumblr for the non-nerds’.

Michael Batz was mentioned half a dozen times (in a row) to acknowledge him for the wonderful review of the podcast he had left on iTunes. So join Mike Batz and Evan Henke – Don’s star pupil who really gets QMRA – to leave a review on iTunes – whether good or bad – though we obviously prefer good. The guys are always open to feedback, as seen by their efforts after Merlin Mann provided some pointers.

Then the conversation turned to hand washing, which is of interest to some of the CSA (community supported agriculture) organizations that Ben has been working with. But, Don’s rant was set off by an article in The Forecaster entitled “In tepid water: Many fast-food restaurants don't comply with Maine health requirement”, shared by Doug Powell. In particular, Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine State Epidemiologist, assertion that using cool water for hand washing is putting the public at greater risk than using warm water. Don tried to think about the scientific justification, though he couldn’t come up with any. It couldn’t really be because of the soap, as camp suds work well in cold water. So maybe it’s a comfort thing, but that is surely a cultural preference as noted by their friend Bobby Krishna from Dubai. But then Ben remembered the Chili’s Salmonella outbreak where lack of warm water had something to do with the outbreak … or was it a lack of water altogether?  As expected, Ben is opposed to putting someone else’s poop into his mouth, but strangely enough he seemed rather comfortable ingesting his own.

Don goes on to note: he would have been more interested in the availability of paper towels and soap, unobstructed hand wash sinks. Or maybe inspectors should be checking more critical things such as burger temperature or cold holding temperature? And just because the tap can give you 110˚F (43.3˚C) doesn’t mean that employees wash their hands with it (if at all). As the Michaels et al. and Todd et al. reviews have showed, water temperature had no impact on the efficacy of hand washing. While the journalist wrote that “There are no statistics that demonstrate how many illnesses are caused by improper hand washing,” the guys were quick to point out that Guzewich and Ross’s article “Evaluation of Risks Related to Microbiological Contamination of Ready-to-eat Food by Food Preparation Workers and the Effectiveness of Interventions to Minimize Those Risks” refutes that point. Don finished his rant by suggesting that a better story would be to write about the lack of resource for public health people to inspect restaurants every year (provided they look for the things that matter).  Let the record show that eventually Don did write a barfblog post on this topic.

The guys then swung around to another liquid – raw milk – which sent Ben off on a tirade on effective, or more precisely ineffective, risk communication. The offending article was “Education needed to show why pasteurization is needed for milk” in Ag Weekly, which epitomizes bad risk communication. The guys agreed that there were many reasons for why people drink raw milk, e.g. “Motivation for Unpasteurized Milk Consumption in Michigan, 2011” and that it was critical to present the risk, but to let the consumer decide whether the potential or perceived benefits outweigh the risk. Ben pointed out a good example of risk communication that was demonstrated by the recent CDC ad campaign, which showed the consequences of smoking but didn’t tell you that smoking is not safe, though Don hadn’t watched any ads since getting TiVo.

Don is still flabbergasted that educated people don’t understand that zero tolerance does not mean zero risk! Don reflected on why a lawyer upset him after he presented at Washington DC meeting “The Future of Performance Standards in Food Safety: Innovation Ahead?” The lawyer was indignant that she had to defend a company that made pig ear dog treats, which had made people sick as she felt that it was the consumer who was to blame for having a pet or for mishandling the dog treat. Don disagrees with blaming consumers, unless they do some really stupid stuff. In fact, pet treats have been associated with human illness on a regular basis, whether they be pig ears or beef pizzles (here’s what a pizzle is), likely due to lack of hand washing after handling the treat. The guys noted the need for producers to understand how people are using their products (irrespective of whether they are pet treats or human food products) and the risk associated with the actual use, rather than just the intended use.

Don had a great time at MaxFunCon, because it made him feel awesome, and possibly because it made Mike Batz jealous. In winding up, a huge shout out went to Dr. Andreas Kiermeier from SARDI who’s volunteered to doing the show notes. He’ll be one of the first ones, right after Mike Batz, to get a T-Shirt once Don gets the T-shirt idea out of Omnifocus.

In the after-dark, the guys work through their difficulties with finding a suitable time for recording the next podcast, which was exacerbated by Don’s plans to see Steven Wright live. Don found a new Safari extension called TabLinks by Brett Terpstra to save many of the links they discuss in the Dropbox shared folder to help Andreas with the show notes. The guys said good-bye and Ben went to the pool with his kids and Don went to do a Friends of Scouting presentation at a Boy Scouts meeting.

Food Safety Talk 20: I’m not worried about eating my own poop!

Food Safety Talk 9: Two monitors and a microphone

Added on by Don Schaffner.

Episode 9 of Food Safety Talk opens with an extended wide-ranging session of follow-up, touching on cookies, beef jerky, and the SRA annual meeting. Finally the guys get around to discussing a recent change to the NYC heath code and the timing of public announcements about foods implicated in food poisoning outbreaks.

Two Monitors and a Microphone